Etikettarkiv: online education

A historian on teaching and technology

Recently I was interviewed by the University of Gothenburg staff magazine, GU-Journalen. They sought a historian’s perspective on how digitisation, understood very broadly, will affect teaching and learning in higher education. The only sensible response I could give to that question, of course, was that a) it really depends and b) no one actually knows. But in the course of elaborating on those basic themes, I also had the chance to comment on some of the recent debates about teaching and technology in relation to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), traditional distance-based education, Active Learning Spaces, and so on.

For those who may be interested, the conversation has now been published in both the original Swedish (web page at Issuu / PDF, 5 Mb) and an English translation (web page at Issue / PDF, 600 Kb). I should point out (again) that I talk here not as a specialist on educational research, but rather as a historian with an interest in digital humanities who has followed (and sometimes engaged in) ”ed tech” debates, especially those about MOOCs a few years ago; some blog posts, mostly in Swedish but also some in English, on that topic can be found here. Even though I am always a little uncomfortable at seeing statements I made verbally and ”in haste,” as it were, presented as text on a page, on the whole I think the interview reflects accurately not only what I said but also what I think about these interesting and very complicated issues.

Expanding the audience

Clay Shirky drills down into the question of what MOOCs are and what they are not:

The possibility MOOCs hold out isn’t replacement; anything that could replace the traditional college experience would have to work like one, and the institutions best at working like a college are already colleges. The possibility MOOCs hold out is that the educational parts of education can be unbundled. MOOCs expand the audience for education to people ill-served or completely shut out from the current system, in the same way phonographs expanded the audience for symphonies to people who couldn’t get to a concert hall, and PCs expanded the users of computing power to people who didn’t work in big companies.

If he is right, the big question is: For how many current and potential students will MOOCs be ”good enough” to justify not attending a traditional college?